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In Surakarta, solar energy may power streetlights

The city of Surakarta, Central Java, is considering using solar energy to power streetlights by the middle of 2013, a senior official has said.

However, the price tag for installing solar-powered streetlights, including lampposts and solar panels, can top US$6,000, according to Surakarta municipal secretary Budi Suharto. “The plan is good but we really have to take into consideration the budget.”

The administration would likely phase in solar power for the municipality’s 16,169 streetlights, the secretary said. 

Budi said that the municipality’s initial budget for 2013 had been fixed, so allocating funds for the new streetlights would have to wait until the Surakarta City Council began deliberations on amending next year’s budget.

On the use of solar energy for streetlights in Surakarta, PT Sunco Energy Solutions has expressed interest in making the city, which is also known as Solo, the site of a pilot project for introducing renewable energy technology.

Sunco Indonesia general manager Erfan Santosa said that Surakarta was chosen for the pilot project due to the high awareness of environmental issues evinced by local residents and officials. 

If the program is realized, Surakarta will be the first city in the nation to use solar energy to power public works.

“Solo has a concern to make itself a green city and we can see that from, among other things, the implementation of the city forest here,” Erfan said at the Surakarta City Hall complex on Wednesday.

Erfan said that Sunco Indonesia would try to reduce the per unit cost of installing a solar-powered streetlight to around $2,000. 

“We actually wanted to realize the project this year, but the city administration wants it realized by August next year,” Erfan said.

High prices have been the greatest impediment to the rapid introduction of solar energy, according to Erfan. Support from the central government in the form of incentives and investments was needed, he said.

He also said that greatest expenditure in using solar energy would be for equipment procurement and installation. Once solar power technology is in operation, power costs can be up to 80 percent less expensive.

Surakarta has had plans to become an “eco-cultural city” since former mayor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, now the Jakarta governor, first took office in 2005. 

The Surakarta eco-cultural city project was realized by restoring decaying areas, such as Balekambang Park, which was transformed from a slum and red light district into a vibrant urban area. 

The city’s Environment Agency, Sanitation Department and Spatial Planning Office have been involved in the initiative, which involves, among other things, creating urban forests through zoning places as green open spaces.

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